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O'Rourke rues slow start in shock loss

Cavan 1-13 Monaghan 0-12

Malachy O'Rourke
Malachy O'Rourke

By Paul Fitzpatrick

Cavan earned local bragging rights and a lot more as a brilliant first-half display saw them pick up a first Championship win over Monaghan since 2001.

A fifth-minute penalty from Martin Reilly was the crucial score as Cavan controlled the first half and withstood sustained pressure from their much-improved neighbours in the second.

By the break, it was 1-8 to 0-4 for the home side, with Reilly on fire. His spot-kick and scores from debutant Conor Brady, Niall Murray and Conor Madden helped Cavan into a 1-3 to 0-0 lead and with Padraig Faulkner doing a fine man-marking job on Conor McManus, the Oriels would fail to score from play in the opening half, with Murray, impressive debutant Conor Rehill and talisman Gearoid McKiernan adding two more for the hosts.

Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke would rue that slow start and seemed to bristle when asked about the penalty.

"We had set out our stall to get a good start and bring the game to Cavan but it never happened. It wasn't like us, we didn't score from play in the first half, kicked a lot of wides, turned over ball and didn't play with any fluency or penetration and Cavan always had that leeway that was hard to peg back," he said.

"I wasn't close enough to see what exactly happened (for the penalty) but one thing I would say is that in these important matches, unless the decision is clear-cut and the referee is certain, you are annoyed if it's given against you. But the referee must have been very definite and it was unfortunately a massive turning point."

The second half was much better from the favourites. Cavan stretched their lead to eight with a free from McKiernan but Monaghan were by now operating an effective high press on the Cavan kick-out.

Sub Conor McCarthy was causing problems and landed a super point, as did McManus, and a Beggan 45, two from Shane Carey and one from Ryan Wylie reduced the gap to a goal, with a rousing Dara McVeety score having momentarily stemmed the tide at the other end.

Cavan, though, didn't panic, which pleased winning manager Mickey Graham most.

"It wasn't going to be just skill alone or heart or passion, it was also about using your head and being smart and I felt that when Monaghan came back at us, the lads showed great composure," said Graham.

Faulkner kicked an inspirational point, McKiernan another and sub Chris Conroy nailed a tough free-kick on Cavan's rare breaks on the home stretch as Monaghan ran out of time.

"There has been a lot of disappointment in the Ulster Championship, but I think it was important, playing in Kingspan Breffni, to put in a performance with character and hunger and I think we saw that," said Graham.

Cavan scorers: G McKiernan 0-4 (2f), M Reilly 1-0 (pen), N Murray 0-2, C Madden 0-2, C Rehill 0-1, Conor Brady 0-1, D McVeety 0-1, P Faulkner 0-1, C Conroy 0-1f.

Monaghan scorers: C McManus 0-4 (3f), R Beggan 0-2 (45, 1f), S Carey 0-2, K Hughes 0-1f, C Boyle 0-1, C McCarthy 0-1, R Wylie 0-1.

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